Devendra Fadnavis’ Maharashtra government: Three years over, slog overs begin
The biggest difference between the previous Maharashtra government and the current one is that Fadnavis is seen taking actionmumbai Updated: Oct 24, 2017 00:36 IST
By the end of this month, the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government will have completed three years in power. The government’s anniversary comes at a time when it is trying to start disbursing farm loan waivers worth Rs34,000 crore.
In all probability, the loan waiver will be projected as a major achievement of the government when it goes to the polls in 2019. Little wonder, then, that chief minister Fadnavis is pulling out all the stops to make it a success.
The past three years have been a mixed bag for the government, though it did not have much trouble politically. It functioned well even as the BJP did not have a complete majority and had to rely on the support of troublesome ally Shiv Sena. A lot of credit goes to Fadnavis, who displayed his political management skills. He did not let the Opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party corner his government over any issues.
At the same time, he ensured that skirmishes with the Sena did not affect his government. It is now a well-known fact that the Sena makes noise against the BJP outside the government, but doesn’t create any problems for Fadnavis inside. The two major agitations — first by the politically strong Maratha community for reservation in government jobs and education — and second — by the farmers’ outfits seeking a loan waiver — seem to have fizzled out.
The BJP has achieved success in the elections to municipal and district bodies that were held earlier this year. The biggest difference between the previous government and the current one is that Fadnavis is seen taking action. The perception of policy paralysis is gone. A number of infrastructure projects have been put on track. Efforts are being made to project Maharashtra as an investor-friendly state.
It’s not as though the government did not face any problems this year and everything in the state was hunky-dory. Allegations that housing minister Prakash Mehta helped builders rocked the assembly. Social justice minister Rajkumar Badole was accused of vested interests when his daughter’s name appeared in the list of socially backward class students getting government aid to study abroad. Fadnavis chose to defend his ministers, refusing to take action against them. His task was made easier by the Opposition that failed to corner him over the issue.
Still, he has certain problems at hand, which are not as easy as tackling the Opposition.
The agrarian crisis is far from over. Farmers continue to commit suicide even as the government has announced loan waivers, underlining just how serious the problem is. A number of farmers along the proposed Mumbai-Nagpur expressway are still opposing the acquisition of their fertile land for the project. Post demonetisation, there has been a slowdown in certain sectors. The GST is likely to impact the state’s revenue in the short run. Fadnavis has less than two years in hand —18 months if the state assembly elections are held along with the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. With the government more than Rs4 lakh crore in debt and not much increase in revenue, Fadnavis and his finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar will have to do a lot of tightrope walking. They will need funds to take up new projects or new populist schemes in the run-up to the elections. How Fadnavis manages this remains to be seen.
Significantly, the vibes in the BJP camp are that Fadnavis is unlikely to get much support from within the government. For the past three years, he has been running the government tightly. Some of his ministers complain that they do not get enough freedom to run their departments the way they want to. Naturally, the onus of how his government performs will be entirely on him. The BJP will contest the next election under his leadership. It also means Fadnavis will have to deliver on his promises in the coming days.
His slog overs have begun and he will have to hit every ball that comes his way.